These apple empanadas have homemade empanada dough and a sweet caramel apple filling. Make this Mexican dessert recipe for a delicious fall treat!
Empanadas are fun and easy to make. They can baked or fried, and filling options are basically endless! They’re
basically Mexican hand pies, so they’re fantastic for grab and go meals. Or, in the case of sweet empanadas, they’re an easy handheld snack or dessert.
I make a lot of empanada recipes because I am always coming up with new filling ideas. Plus, they freeze beautifully, and are a snap to reheat!
If you like kid-friendly dinners, serve a batch of beef empanadas with sides of Mexican rice and authentic elote (street corn). Your kids will clean their plates! Then you can treat them to golden brown, baked caramel apple empanadas for dessert!
Ingredient notes for apple empanadas
- Empanada dough– As long as you have a food processor, making the dough is a snap! If you don’t want to make the dough, you can buy frozen empanada discs from your local grocery store or Mexican market.
If you’ll be buying empanada dough for this dessert recipe, be sure to buy sweet empanada dough or discs. This is because dough for savory empanadas isn’t sweetened with sugar.
If savory dough is all you can find, you may want to add 1 teaspoon of sugar to the apple filling.
- Apples – I use Granny Smith apples, but any crisp, sweet, firm-fleshed baking apple is perfect. Other good options are Gala, Pink Lady, Honey Crisp, Cortland, and McIntosh.
If you’d like to use a different fruit, feel free! Baked rhubarb empanadas are delicious, and pears, berries, and cherries all work well for sweet empanadas, too.
- Caramels – Kraft makes a product called caramel bits and they are really convenient to use. They’re essentially unwrapped Kraft caramels, but much smaller in size.
Substitutes for Kraft Caramel Bits
25 unwrapped Kraft caramels may be substituted for 1 cup Kraft caramel bits. Cut these into smaller pieces if using. If you’ll be using a different brand of caramel candies, keep in mind that you’ll want 5 ounces of caramels for this recipe.
If you aren’t a fan of using ingredients with so much corn syrup in them, you could make my recipe for homemade caramel and use that instead! You’ll probably need to thicken it a bit first though, because it’s a bit thin for a filling like this. I’ve included notes below on how to thicken the caramel sauce.
Of course, if you’d rather bake apple empanadas without caramel in them you can omit the caramels altogether.
How to thicken caramel sauce for empanada filling
There are a couple of options for thickening caramel sauce that’s too thin.
- Cool it down. The easiest way to thicken the sauce is to simply allow it to chill a bit longer. Until it’s completely cool, it will continue to thicken.
- Add a slurry. Place a cup of the thin caramel sauce into a small saucepan over medium heat. Gently stir in 1 teaspoon of cornstarch combined with 1/2 teaspoon of water. This mixture is called a slurry, and it’s a great thickener! After the slurry is stirred in, continue heating the caramel for a minute or two, stirring gently. It should thicken up perfectly for you.
If you know how to make biscuits or a basic pie crust, you’ll have no problems making the empanada dough, because the ingredients are almost identical. The process is the same for all three as well; just a few pulses in a food processor and it’s ready to go into the fridge to chill!
To watch the process of making this dessert recipe from start to finish, watch the video located in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Apple Empanada Recipe Notes
- Use cold ingredients for the dough.
The key to a perfect, flaky empanada crust is using ingredients that are very cold. Sometimes, I’ll even use butter straight from the freezer. I just grate it on a box grater instead of dicing it. Chill all of the ingredients for the empanada dough; you can even put your flour into the freezer for a few minutes if you’d like.
- Chill the dough before cutting the discs.
Even when you use very cold ingredients, they tend to warm up in the food processor. If you try to cut the discs out of warm dough, it is likely to tear. Take a break and let the dough chill for 30 minutes or so first.
- Measure out the apple filling.
It is very easy to use too much filling, and trust me; if you do this, the apple empanadas will most likely burst open in the oven. To avoid that mess, use a 1/4 measuring cup to portion out the filling.
Yes, freezing empanadas is one of the best meal prep ideas ever! Not only do empanadas freeze well, they reheat just as beautifully.
To reheat baked apple empanadas, simply place them frozen or thawed on a lined baking sheet and into a 350°F. oven. From thawed or room temperature, cook for 10 minutes. If empanadas are frozen, give them 15 minutes to heat through.
In most cases, the reason empanadas get soggy is that the filling is too wet. If you’re making sweet empanadas, dry fillings such as apples or pears work better than berries, which tend to have more juice.
If you’re making savory meat empanadas, you can place the filling into a strainer to allow any meat juices to drain before adding it.
Sweet Apple Empanadas + Video
- 6-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter
- silicone baking mat or parchment paper
- rimmed baking sheet
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 8 oz cold butter cut into 16 pieces
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbsp cold water
- 2 Granny Smith apples peeled and diced
- 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 cup Kraft caramel bits (SEE NOTE 1)
- 1 egg beaten (for egg wash)
- 1 dash ground cinnamon
- sanding sugar crystals
Make Sweet Empanada Dough
- Add flour, sugar and salt to bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the cold butter, eggs and water and pulse several times, until a dough forms.
- Remove dough from bowl and transfer to a floured surface. Use your hands to knead the dough a few times. Divide dough into 2 equal sized balls, flatten them into thick discs, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Make Apple Filling
- Peel, core and dice the apples. Transfer diced apples to a large bowl, and squeeze lemon juice over top. Add 2 tbsp flour and caramel bits, then toss to combine. Set aside.
- Set oven to 375° F.
- Roll out the dough on a floured surface into a thin sheet and use 6-inch round biscuit/cookie cutter to cut 12 empanada discs. Dough scraps may be gathered and rerolled as necessary. Place discs on a rimmed baking sheet lined with silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
- Place 1/4 cup apple filling in center of each empanada disc. Note: Be careful not to add too much filling, as it will tear the dough.
- Dip your index finger into water and moisten outer rim of each disc, then fold each disc in half to enclose the filling. Gently press edges of dough with your fingers to seal the empanada closed, then use tines of a fork to crimp edges together. Refrigerate the empanadas for at least 30 minutes before baking.
- Brush tops of each apple empanada with egg wash and sprinkle with sanding sugar crystals. Bake the empanadas for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
- 25 unwrapped Kraft caramels may be substituted for 1 cup Kraft caramel bits. Cut these into smaller pieces if using. If you’ll be using a different brand of caramel candies, keep in mind that you’ll want 5 ounces of caramels for this recipe. Alternatively, you could make and use homemade caramel or use Nestle Pumpkin Morsels.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.